22nd Light Dragoons

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Chronology

  • 1760 first raised as the 22nd Regiment of Light Dragoons
  • 1768 disbanded
  • 1779 raised again by the Earl of Sheffield as the York Light Dragoons
  • 1783 disbanded again
  • 1794 raised again
  • 1794 raised as the original 25th Light Dragoons, or Gwyn's Hussars
  • 1802 renamed the 22nd Regiment of Light Dragoons
  • 1819 disbanded

History

The following brief history is derived from 'The Cavalry Journal', volume 31, Jan-Nov 1941. It was transcribed by Cathy Day.

Overview

Four regiments of Light Dragoons have in succession borne the identification number of 22. The first regiment had but a brief existence, being raised in 1760 and disbanded in 1768. The second regiment was raised in 1779 for home service by the Earl of Sheffield under the title of the York Light Dragoons. It was dissolved in 1783. The third regiment was raised in 1794 and was commanded by Colonel Viscount Feilding. This regiment served in Ireland and in Egypt, and bore the badge of the Sphynx surmounting the word Egypt.

The fourth regiment was raised in 1794 as the original 25th Light Dragoons, or Gwyn's Hussars, after its commanding officer, Colonel Francis Gwyn. The uniform consisted of French grey with scarlet facings and bore a badge on their helmet consisting of the Roman Cardinals XXV between the letters L.D. surmounting a hunting horn. In 1796 the regiment was dispatched on active service to Cape Colony and took part in the first march ever made by British troops in South Africa - that of Saldanha Bay. Later they were shipped to India and served through the Mahratta War in Mysore, 1799. In 1802 the regiment was renumbered as the 22nd, and next saw service in the Expedition to Java in 1811, returning again to India where they fought in the action of Maheidpore in 1817. For its services the regiment was awarded the battle honour " Seringapatam."

Its uniform in 1812 consisted of pink collar, cuffs and lapelles, with blue jacket and white breeches. There is a record of an inspection of the 22nd Light Dragoons at Bangalore, Southern India, in July, 1815, when owing to the difficulty experienced by the officers in procuring the pink colour for their facings, " the Commander-in-Chief was pleased to admit of their wearing red facings for the present." In the following November the Prince Regent issued an order to the effect that owing to the difficulty in procuring peach blossom cloth in India for the officer's uniforms that the facings of the regiment were to be changed to white.

In the 1819 Army List the regiment made its last appearance with "Ordered to be Disbanded" underneath their sole battle honour "Seringapatam", which embraced so much hard fighting. Colonel F. E. Gwyn was still shown as colonel.

Battles

The following account of the exploits of HM 22nd Light Dragoons from 1817-1819 is extracted from the 'The Mahratta and Pindari Wars' compiled by the General Staff, India and published in Simla in 1910. It was transcribed by Cathy Day. The archaic language and values of the document reflect the times in which they were written. For the most part Cathy has extracted the history verbatim, and added some clarifying comments and explanations where appropriate.


Brigadier-General Thomas Munro, the Commander of the Reserve of the Deccan Army, exercised both civil and military jurisdiction in the country between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra where his forces were disposed, his headquarters being at Dharwar. In October 1817, prior to the outbreak at Poona, the Peshwa had asked the assistance of the British Government in the reduction of the valley of Sundur, which was in a state of insubordination, and contained a temple of great sanctity which he occasionally visited. For this purpose the force then at Dharwar was most conveniently situated, and preparations were made early in October for its movement. On the 11th October all the artillery marched from Dharwar for Hampsagar on the Tungabhadra, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Dalrymple; followed on the 13th by Colonel Munro with the remainder of the force. On the 20th October Colonel Munro divided his force into two parts, of which one, consisting of all the cavalry except half a squadron of Dragoons, and half a Squadron of Native cavalry, was placed on the left bank of the river in charge of the sick and heavy baggage, and the other crossed over by basket boats to Hampsagar, which took 3 days. These boats were wicker boats made by the troops in the jungle, and covered with skins. The material used in their construction was probably sambalu, a plant resembling willow, which grows in profusion on river banks in Southern. India. The force was there joined by the headquarters and three companies, 2nd Battalion of Pioneers, from Bellary. On the 27th October Colonel Munro entered the valley of Sundur, when the fort was surrendered, and the same day was occupied by a British garrison. On the 16th November the greater part of Colonel Munro's force was formed into the reserve of the Army of the Deccan under Brigadier-General Pritzler; the former officer having returned to his headquarters at Dharwar.

In December Colonel Munro was reappointed to the command of the Reserve with the rank of Brigadier-General, but he had only one battalion at headquarters, the remainder having taken the field under Brigadier-General Pritzler. Munro found himself at Dharwar opposed in the first instance by the influence of Kashi Rao Gokla, lately appointed by Baji Rao civil and military Governor of the Southern Mahratta country. The country was studded with forts, and probably no territory of similar extent in any part of the world possessed so many of these strongholds as that belonging to the Peshwa before the war. They had most of them been constructed as secure retreats in the time of Sivaji, whom Aurangzeb called "the Mountain Rat."

When Brigadier-General Munro took the field, he procured from Bellary a small battering train and the detachment of the 2-12 Native Infantry, which had been left at Sundur since the beginning of November. He also occupied himself in raising an irregular force of infantry (called Peons) as auxiliaries to relieve his few regulars from unimportant duties and to garrison places he might reduce. A party of these Peons at Nalgund were harassed by a body of Kashi Rao Gokla's horse, and were relieved by Lieutenant-Colonel Newall with five companies 2-4th Native Infantry, two guns, and a 5-inch howitzer on the 24th December.

On the 5th January, Brigadier-General Munro, having collected a sufficient force, began active operations. He opened the campaign with the siege of Gadag, which surrendered on the 6th; Kashi Rao's horse appeared, but made no stand. The garrison of Damal, after four hours' firing from two batteries, surrendered on the 8th, to the number of 450 men; Hubli fell on the 14th and Misri Kotah on the 16th, both these places being then occupied by Peons.

The Brigadier-General then returned to Dharwar, and halted there to reorganise until the 4th February, drawing supplies and treasure in the meantime from the Ceded Districts. In the middle of December a body of Pindaris (roving mercenaries and plunderers) had ascended the Berar Ghats and gone southward. They plundered Harponhalli and other places on the way to Chitaldrug, and then, being pursued by the 5th Madras Cavalry, broke up into smaller detachments. They were attacked by a detachment on horseback and on foot, and suffered considerably in men, horses, and booty; and on their return journey, they were attacked again , when they lost twenty men and forty horses.

On the 5th February Brigadier-General Munro reopened the campaign by marching against Badami, on the Malpurba. At Holur on the 8th a party of the enemy's horse was met with, and some of the native cavalry fell into an ambush, and lost nine men and eight horses killed and wounded. On the 9th February the force arrived at Belur, the garrison of which, 400 horse and 300 foot, escaped over the hills towards Badami. Against this place the General advanced on the 12th when the advanced guard encountered a detachment posted in a pagoda. A gun was brought up to cover passage, and the place taken at the point of the bayonet.

Badami was a walled town at the foot of fortified hills, containing an inner fort, and it was at first considered necessary to attack the lower defences. By the evening of the 17th a practicable breach was made, and at daybreak next morning the storming party surmounted the breach, killed the men in the neighbouring works, and drove those to the upper works, to which they quickly pursued them. The enemy then surrendered at discretion, and by 10 a.m. the Brigadier-General was in possession of all the forts, and 14 guns and 17 jinjals. The British losses amounted to 4 Europeans and 5 natives killed and wounded. This was one of the strongest hill forts in India. Other places surrendered in quick succession and Brigadier-General Munro then advanced against Belgaum, before which he arrived on the 20th February 1818, and immediately occupied the town. The fort was found to be in perfect repair, surrounded by a deep and broad wet ditch, and garrisoned by 1,600 men. A battery was prepared at a mosque 800 yards from the north face, and opened fire on the 21st, being answered by five guns of the enemy, which were nearly silenced the following day. On the 24th the approach by trench was begun, and carried 140 yards, advancing 120 yards the following day. The approach was carried forward daily. On the 31st the magazine at the mosque blow up, and the enemy garrison made a sally to take advantage of the expected confusion but they were met by the battery guard and driven back, under a heavy fire of guns and small arms from the walls.

The approach was now well advanced, and on the 3rd April a breaching battery opened within 550 yards of the wall with great effect on the left of the gateway. The enemy garrison had still two effective guns, with which they annoyed the breaching battery, but these were silenced, and on the 4th a large portion of the outer wall and part of the inner wall were brought down. A few days later an effective breach was made on the right of the gateway, and on the 10th April the commandant of the fort surrendered. The garrison lost 20 killed and 50 wounded during the siege; the British had thirty-six casualties. Thirty-six large guns and 60 small guns and jinjals were taken. The walls, it was found, were solid and massive and upwards of a mile and half in extent; affording the garrison ample cover from fire. In his despatch the General commended Lieutenant-Colonel Newall " for the judgement, zeal, and energy with which he personally directed every operation."

Brigadier-General Munro and his force marched to Nagar Manaoli, where he was joined by the Remainder of the Reserve under Brigadier-General Pritzler, who in January had taken the important fortress of Wassota, releasing the family of the Raja of Satara and the two British officers who were confined there. (Coronets Morison and Hunter, 1st and 2nd Madras Cavalry, were captured on their way to Poona in November 1817. They had undergone such hardships as to be scarcely recognisable when released.) Many other places surrendered to Brigadier-General Pritzler on his march from Satara to join General Munro.

It will be remembered that a force of infantry and guns of Baji Rao's army had marched to Sholapur. These formed the next objective of Brigadier General Munro's operations. The enemy had been encamped south-south-west of Sholapur, but withdrew on the approach of the British. On 8th May 1818 the force crossed the Sina at Patri, and encamped on the 9th within two miles of the enemy's position which was under the walls of the town.

Near the eastern gate of the fort is a tomb to the memory of two Pathans who fell when the fort was taken in 1818. These two men were in charge of a round open tower on the wall, which they defended to the last, having sworn on the Koran never to surrender.

The fort of Sholapur was a fine specimen of Eastern architecture, built of granite. On one side was a spacious tank with a temple in the centre connected with the shore by a stone causeway. On the other three sides the fort was surrounded by a wide and deep ditch cut in the solid rock. The entrance passed through three strongly fortified gateways, protected by heavy guns. Adjoining the fort on the western side was the native town, walled in, with round towers at intervals and several gates.

The Mahratta Chief, Ganpat Rao, had taken up a position under the walls with 850 horse, 1,200 Arabs, 4,300 other infantry under Major Pinto, and 14 pieces of field artillery. In addition the fort had a garrison of 1,000 men.

General Munro had with him the force consisting of 180 men of the 22nd Light Dragoons, a detachment of artillery, His Majesty's Flank Battalion, a rifle detachment and one battalion each from the 4th, 7th, 9th and 12th Native Infantry. He first reconnoitred the place with a squadron of dragoons, half the flank battalion and rifles, and the flank companies of the remaining corps, under a continuous fire.

Subadar Cheyn Singh, 4th Madras Infantry, was sent to summons and offer terms to the garrison, but was cruelly murdered by the Arabs under the walls. This native officer had on many occasions during the campaign been selected for similar duties, on account of his singular intelligence and address. His next heir was liberally pensioned by the Government, in recognition of his devotion to duty.

At 3 o'clock on the morning of the 10th May the troops began to get under arms for the attack. Two parties were formed : for the escalade of the town walls, under Colonel Hewitt, two columns each composed of two European flank companies, one battalion native infantry, and one company pioneers; for the support of the escalade, a reserve under Brigadier-General Pritzler, consisting of a squadron and a half of dragoons with gallopers, two European flank companies, four native flank companies, four 6-pounders, and two howitzers. At dawn the escalading columns moved rapidly forward, preceded by the pioneers carrying scaling ladders, while the reserve opened fire on the front and flanking defences. The ladders planted, the heads of the columns topped the walls simultaneously, possession was taken of the towers to the right and left, parties were sent to open the gates, and in a short time all the troops had entered. One column followed the course of the wall by the right, and occupied three large houses close to the fort. The left column separated into two parts, one keeping along the wall on the left, and the other up the central street to the opposite extremity, after forcing the gate which divided the town. The outer gate was also forced open and the column dislodged a party of the enemy posted in a neighbouring suburb.

Meanwhile Ganpat Rao left his position near the fort, and making a detour by the eastern side, placed himself with seven guns and a large body of horse and foot opposite the reserve force, on which he opened fire. One of the enemy's tumbrils (wagons for carrying ammunition and explosives) blew up, and an attack upon them was then carried out with the bayonet under direction of General Munro. Brigadier-General Munro directed the charge in person, cheered vociferously by the Europeans, whose delight at the veteran's presence among them on such an occasion was an excuse for the noisy freedom with which he was hailed. Ganpat Rao was severely wounded, and his second-in-command killed by a cannon shot. The Mahrattas began to draw off their guns but three of them were taken, while their infantry were driven into a garden and enclosures, from whence they maintained a fire of musketry.

Lieutenant-Colonel Newall now joined with a detachment of Europeans and rifles from the town, and attacked and dislodged them. They retreated to their original position near the fort, being fired on by a field piece from the south gate of the city as they passed. A gate leading into the inner town was taken possession of by a company of the 69th Regiment, and three companies of Native infantry, but they were forced to abandon it by the enemy's gun and rifle fire.

The enemy retained possession of the parts of the town that were covered by matchlock fire from the fort; the British troops occupying the remainder. The reserve returned to camp, which had been moved to the north side of the place, where Dhuli Khan, of the Nizam's service, joined with 800 irregulars.

Later in the day the enemy who were encamped under the walls, consisting of Baji Rao's infantry, began to move off. They were pursued by the detachment of dragoons, and two galloper-guns, while Dhuli Khan's horsemen followed. Having left behind them the guns which impeded their flight, they were not overtaken until seven miles from camp. The gallopers opened with grape (hundreds of balls of lead shot, linked by chains and fired from a cannon, and designed to kill humans), while half a squadron took ground on each flank of the retreating enemy, which maintained an unsteady fire of matchlocks. Followed up, this body of fugitives was completely dispersed before night put an end to the pursuit on the banks of the Sina river. Nearly a thousand dead were left on the field. Much execution was done by the pistols of the troopers, which, Brigadier Pritzler stated in his report, the men used effectively after the charge. It was observed on this as on other occasions that the British thrusting sabre was of little use, owing to the thick and quilted garments worn by the enemy. After the attack on the town, operations were undertaken against the fort, and by the 14th a practicable breach was made in the outer wall. The garrison, seeing the futility of further resistance, surrendered the place with 37 guns and 39 field pieces the following morning. The British loss throughout amounted to 102.

1819

During October, 389 men (including Cathy Day's ancestor, Private William Killmain) volunteered from the 22nd Light Dragoons and joined the 13th Light Dragoons

External Links

Historical books online